MOSCOW, July 23. /TASS/. At least part of the political elite of France wants to build up constructive relationship with Russia, Chairman of Russia State Duma Sergey Naryshkin said on Thursday.
"I see that the visits of French politicians to our country testify to a constructive approach by at least part of the French political elite, the constructive approach to develop relations with Russia and build up political dialogue in the interest of our bilateral partnership," the speaker said during a meeting with the delegation of French parliamentarians led by member of the French National Assembly and co-chairman of the Franco-Russian Dialogue Association Thierry Mariani.
Naryshkin said the French lawmakers’ forthcoming visit to Crimea will let them objectively assess the situation on the peninsula.
"I know about your plans to spend one-and-a-half day in Crimea. You planned it beforehand," Naryshkin told the delegation of French parliamentarians led by Thierry Mariani.
Naryshkin expressed confidence that "the visit to Crimea will allow them [French parliamentarians] to objectively assess the situation on the peninsula, understand people’s attitudes there." He also advised delegation members to "talk more with ordinary Crimean residents."
Naryshkin said that Ukrainian crisis has moved to the background the development of bilateral relations between Russia and France.
The lawmaker noted that Russia considers France one of its key partners not only in Europe, but also in the world.
"However, I have to state, unfortunately, that the deepest crisis in Ukraine serves as a deterrent factor today as it moved to the background the development of bilateral ties between the countries and peoples," the speaker noted.
Naryshkin thanked Mariani for "multi-faceted activities on the post of co-chairman of ‘French-Russian Dialogue’ association." "The association’s activity serves for reciprocity of our peoples, and it is especially important now, when Russian-French relations are influenced by the crisis of the lack of trust which emerged on the European continent," the lawmaker noted.
A parliamentary delegation from France will arrive on a two-day visit to the Crimean peninsula on July 23. The delegation includes more than 10 members of the French National Assembly and the Senate. During their visit to Yalta and Sevastopol, French lawmakers are expected to meet Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov and chairman of Crimea's State Council Vladimir Konstantinov.
Mariani, who leads the French delegation, told Russian Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday that parliamentarians had not consulted with the Ukrainian authorities before the trip. "French deputies are free to make their own decisions," Mariani said.
Crimea, where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
In mid-March last year, Crimea re-joined Russia following a referendum. More than 82% of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96% backed splitting from Ukraine and spoke in favor of reuniting with Russia.
Results of the referendum were celebrated by many Crimeans but the vote was widely criticized by Western leaders and at the United Nations.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, when Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean region, along with Sevastopol, to Ukraine's jurisdiction for purposes of logistics.